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Improve your architectural images with symmetry

Symmetry is pretty common in architecture. Many buildings have symmetrical features since it’s often the most efficient design. So, naturally, symmetry becomes an important tool when photographing architecture!

You hear many rules in the photography world, and symmetry is not always well regarded. If you think about rules like “don’t put your subject in the center” or “don’t put the horizon in the middle.” However, while rules help you when you get started, they tend to just suppress your creativity afterward. In this case, symmetry can be a great tool, depending on why and how you use it.

You’ll find a lot of symmetry in my images, as I like the serene, contemplative effect it creates for architectural images. That’s what matters: Use symmetry to build the story of your image. If you want something dramatic and dynamic, then maybe symmetry isn’t the best choice.

The simplest way to compose is line symmetry, that you can see in the image above. If you draw a vertical line in the middle of the image, the left part is the reflection of the right part. It also works with bottom and top parts of the image:

The hardest part of shooting symmetrically is getting it perfectly right. If your composition is a little off, the viewer will notice and it will be distracting. My first recommendation is to look at environmental clues and find ways to position yourself in the center of the space you’re photographing. Often, there will be lines (think tiles) on the floor that can help you move to the center. Take your time on location, as you won’t be able to correct that later!

If you have several layers in your image, a good trick is to align the centers of each element. In the image below, I aligned the tip of the pyramid in the foreground with the center of the diamonds of the background pyramid.

Reflections are a great way to create symmetry when there was none. Your image might not be perfectly symmetrical as your lens and sensor are slightly off center, but it’s a great way to get unique images. Get as close to the glass as possible!

Including other compositional tools will help make your image more compelling. In the image below, I included leading lines and patterns to make my composition more interesting.

Let’s talk about the more complicated kind of symmetry: Through a central point. This is when every side of the image is symmetrical. Ceilings are a great example of symmetry through a central point.

Of course, it’s even harder to align yourself in all directions when looking up. Use my tip about environmental clues and use the grid in your viewfinder to align architectural features. Also, keep in mind that when you’re looking up, your head and camera are a little behind your feet. You might want to step forward to account for that.

There are many ways to shoot with symmetry. On your next outing, keep that in mind and look for ways to include symmetry to make your composition even more compelling.

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